Business & Society

Honors Students Spend Their Summer "Vacation" Volunteering Abroad

As the fall semester kicks into gear on the Utah State University campus, many Honors students are adjusting to “reverse homesickness,” having spent their summers working and volunteering abroad. Students in the university Honors Program spent their summers in every corner of the globe, making a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.

Brandon Martin, pre-med junior, spent his second summer in a row working in a hospital in Nicaragua. Martin worked in the spring and early summer to raise money so that he could bring much-needed basic medical supplies — gloves, test tubes and the like — to a poor rural hospital in Granada. Like other Honors students, Martin received financial help from the Honors Research Fund, and wrote about his experience:

It’s 6:30 am and judging by the abnormally early onset of the crowing, the rooster next door is clearly broken. The smell of smoke wafting through the decorative cinderblocks of my bedroom wall tells me that Luis has fresh cheese smoking in preparation for a day of sales at the market. As I roll out of bed for my last day at the hospital, I pause to enjoy the only moment of cool air that I’m likely to experience all day. Descending the steep metal stairs from my upstairs room, I’m greeted by Luis, my host dad, as he puts the finishing touches on my morning meal. I sit down to a large glass of fresh, sweetened milk and a plate of rice and beans accompanied by a couple of slices of fried cheese and a soft white roll. The morning routine has become familiar and I’ve come to claim the Vanegas family as my own. However, there’s no time to wax nostalgic — the rickety, converted yellow school bus will soon come rumbling around the corner to carry me off on the twenty-minute trek up the highway to the Hospital Amistad Japón-Nicaragua.

All together, Martin donated more than 120 hours to the hospital, and the experience changed the way he thinks about medicine.

“My involvement abroad over the last two summers has led me to the service-oriented MD program at Creighton University,” Martin said and he’s waiting to hear about an interview for admission to the unique program. “I feel that Honors has made a worth-while investment by supporting my efforts through the Honors Research Fund. My education has been incredibly enriched through this incredible opportunity and I hope that future students will find similar support in their pursuit of worthwhile goals.”

Business major and Honors student Kjersten Adams spent her summer in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, working at the first microfinance bank in Mongolia and learning about the management of microfinance organizations firsthand. She completed three major jobs: researching micro savings products around the world in order to launch a new micro savings product and market it; research client protection services, and research social performance in general in order to make a recommendation to the bank. Finally, she helped gather information to create a PPI (progress out of poverty index) for Mongolia. 

Her experience allowed apply what she knew while also learning about cultural difference.

“I was able to use skills I had learned in the classroom and apply them to real-life scenarios,” Adams said. “I also realized how lucky I am to be able to obtain a first-class education that can take me in any direction I choose.”

Chelsea Funk and Melody Jensen completed a three-month internship in Ghana for the USU SEED (Small Enterprise Education and Development) Program. This was a follow-up trip for Funk, who traveled to Ghana over spring break.

“My SEED internship was the most unique and rewarding experience I have had in college,” Funk said. “It was an exciting challenge to work with individuals in a culture significantly different from my own, and I learned so much through teaching and interacting with them. It was amazing to be part of a program that enriches the lives of local entrepreneurs and provides life-changing experiences to interns. I also appreciated the opportunities to serve in the community. I greatly enjoyed teaching a literacy program in the primary school, volunteering at the local health clinic and teaching some of our business curriculum to the district disabled association. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to do work that will have a profound and lasting impact on myself and the people I worked with in Ghana.”

Not all Honors students worked in developing countries.

Two Honors students traveled to Scotland. Claire Ahlstrom interned with the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, and history major Andrea Thompson participated in the International Summer School program at the University of Stirling. Thompson took classes in Scottish history and international relations, learning these things from a European-centered worldview.

A number of Honors students studied abroad through USU programs. Laura Romero traveled to Italy with the Landscape Architecture program, and seven Honors students studied Spanish in Chile through the Honors Program. Rachel Rawlings traveled through Asia with the Huntsman School of Business Go Global summer study abroad, while Mitch Dabling traveled to Peru with Engineers Without Borders.

“No matter where they go, these students are making a profound difference in how they think about the world,” said Christie Fox, Honors Program director. “Their travel experiences allow them to see a new culture and to view their own culture with fresh eyes. I hope that every Honors student has the opportunity to live abroad, even for a short time, and I’m glad that Honors can provide financial and emotional support for these students to meet their lofty goals.”

For more information, contact Christie Fox, 435-797-3940,

Source: USU Honors Program

Contact: Christie Fox, Honors director, (435) 797-3940,

USU Honor student Brandon Martin with medical supplies

Brandon Martin unpacking medical supplies in Grenada.

USU Honors student Kjersten Adams with friends in Mongolia

USU Honors student Kjersten Adams (center) in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.


Hands-on Learning 133stories World 98stories Service Learning 50stories Internship 37stories International 30stories

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